MarTech Interview with Henk Campher, CMO at Thinkific

Henk Campher catches up with MarTech Series to share a few thoughts on his latest appointment as Thinkific’s first CMO while sharing a few key marketing best practices for B2B teams:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Henk. You’ve had an interesting marketing journey through the years, tell us about your biggest learnings and marketing moments during this time? If not marketing, where else would you have seen yourself?

The three biggest learnings for me have to be that life is all about relationships, that words matter, and to ask yourself, what tequila would do?

Marketing has always been about relationships and the rules of relationships remain the same – be interesting, be honest, be entertaining, be consistent, be ready for change. No matter how many new channels we have today or how much smarter we are because of all the data we have available today, if you don’t understand relationships then nothing else matters.

The second lesson is that words matter. There should always be a story, whether it’s in copy for an ad or a white paper. Stories connect people and trigger parts of the brain that build deeper commitments than pure numbers. And don’t build walls with words. We so often get lost in complicated conversations and use words no one in real life would use over a meal. The minute you have to explain a word, you’ve just built a wall between you and your audience.

The last learning is to always ask yourself what would tequila do? Do crazy things every now and again. Do the things that make you a little scared. Create memories. You can’t have wild outcomes with mild marketing.

As for my biggest marketing moments, I have too many amazing memories to pick only one that stands out. I would have to go back to the roots of my marketing, when I created and launched the Proudly South African campaign initiated by Nelson Mandela. That taught me so much at an early stage in my career. My three learnings all started there, and everything I have done in marketing since has been with a purpose. I simply won’t work with or for a company whose products or services do not help create a better world. And there is no better place to take the power and learnings of the creator economy to the masses than Thinkific. This movement will change the world for the better.

To your last question, if I was not in marketing I would’ve been an activist in one form or another. I believe in the power of marketing to achieve that, but I could also just as easily have done development work or run activist campaigns like I did in the early part of my career. I live a privileged life and have to use that privilege to help leave the world a more just, equal, and free place for all of us.

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As the newly appointed CMO at Thinkific, tell us about your role and what you’re most looking forward to?

It is such an honor to be part of this team and to be their first CMO. It is an amazing opportunity to build on what is an incredible team and a rocketship of a company. There is no existential problem to solve – it’s a great product, with great people in a fast growing company and a fast growing industry. So this is a role to build on what is already an incredible foundation. I see my role as threefold.

Firstly, to support and build an incredible marketing team. They are rockstars and were rockstars way before I came. My job is to support them and keep that culture going – and to institutionalize it for the future.

Secondly, I am incredibly excited to help build a brand that stands out. It is not enough to be the leading company in our industry. We must be the Apple, Starbucks, Shopify, Salesforce when it comes to brand recognition and dominance. I’ve been lucky enough to work with leading brands who don’t put too much pressure on ‘winning’. Winning is when you look at other companies. I don’t want to simply win, because it isn’t about what others are doing. I want us to define our future and be a brand that reflects that future. One that inspires people – especially our customers, students and our own people. We have a unique opportunity to be that brand. It will be hard work but there is no one standing in our way.

Lastly, I am really looking forward to working with my team as we build the marketing discipline and systems needed for continued growth. So often fast growing companies just hang on while they grow and forget that you need to build a smarter organization through updated systems, processes and the techstack you use – as what you use today will affect you three to five years from now. I love that challenge when building for the future, and it’s like building a puzzle as a team.

In a crowded B2B digital marketing environment, what would you share for marketers to break away from the noise – and create content and messaging that truly stands out?

 I’ll go back to the question of ‘what would tequila do’. Do not do mild marketing and expect wild outcomes. The world does not need any more content. We are drowning in boring dreary content being thrown at us from all directions. Every single channel – from LinkedIn to television – is flooded with boring similar content. Every single time you think of something, stop and ask yourself, “what do I really want to do that will make me love or laugh or cry until I buy?” Give yourself at least two options – from mild to wild – and execute against the wild often enough to build new habits.

But saying it does not mean it will happen. It requires discipline to constantly challenge yourself. And apart from making it a must to always come up with a wild option, you must have leadership that will always have the team’s back. Teams can only do truly disruptive work if their leaders applaud and encourage it.

Lastly, test and test and test. Set aside 15-30% of your marketing resources (time, money, people, etc) to test new things. Learn from those tests, drop what didn’t work, change what can be changed, learn, adapt and scale. And then go back to testing.

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As marketers build new forms and focus on new channels to drive content and marketing, what metrics should they be tracking closely today to keep optimizing their steps and processes?

Three things remain true for me.

Firstly, you must have the basic dashboard that works through the whole funnel – and then some. Start with brand awareness and equity, drive from consideration to conversion, bring it back with loyalty, retention and advocacy. But keep it simple and keep it true for Marketing and Sales to work off one set of data. These teams need to act and work as one because they are the only teams that build bridges to customers – the bridge from product promise to customer belief.

Secondly, you have to make your data specific to what you are trying to achieve. For instance, why would you focus on brand awareness if you have 50%+ share of voice on social and media? You are so dominant that it won’t help you at all. Focusing on engagement or brand searches might be a much better data point to look at.

Lastly, know whether your data is telling you what you really need to know. I have seen so many organizations simply stare blindly at leads and deals. And the mantra becomes “let’s get more leads” because the assumption is that it will lead to more deals. When I was at Salesforce the Sales and Marketing teams in my part of the business were staring at those data points every single Monday morning trying to pull the leads lever. A simple analysis of the funnel by a sharp analyst pointed out that we had a conversion problem and not a coverage problem. Marketing Ops is that other sharp end that you absolutely must have to ensure you are looking and addressing the right stuff.

In your view, how can B2B marketing teams be structured better to meet the challenges and martech needs of today’s B2B marketing environment?

Make sure you are targeting the right problems or opportunities. Teams can be structured in a thousand ways but it will only be optimally structured if you have clarity on what you are trying to achieve. Base your structure on what you need to achieve over the next 18-36 months.

At the same time, be flexible. Everyone says they are good with change until change happens. You have to learn this muscle within a structure too. Build structures that can adapt to change and cultures that are focused on outcomes not management and reporting structures. I’ve always tried to have as flat a structure as possible so we can act as one team and adapt as quickly as possible. And for the team to know – whatever happens, I have your back all the time.

Some last thoughts and marketing / martech takeaways before we wrap up?

Remember to have fun. We have by far the coolest jobs in any organization. We are a unique mix of left and right brain people trying to make our customers fall in love with us. We can dive deep into data and the tech that supports us and just as deep into playing with a single word or color. Enjoy that. It is an incredible privilege to do this job. Remember to have fun with it.

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Henk Campher is the CMO at Thinkific.

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